Dabwali Fire Victims Association (DFVA) has welcomed the decision of the apex court of telling the DAV management to pay the compensation amount to the families of those who perished in the fire tragedy 17 years ago.
Talking to Hindustan Times, association secretary Vinod Bansal said, "It is no time for celebration. We had lost our near and dear ones, and the DAV management went defiant and took so long to pay the compensation."
Bansal said, "After the tragedy which claimed at least 400 lives and left many injured, the state government and DAV management promised all help and compensation, but everything changed once the government in the state changed in 1996."
He said, "The then chief minister Bansi Lal refused free treatment and the DAV management started charging fees from the victims. With no option left, we approached the Punjab and Haryana high court in 1996. On the interim court order, the state government started the free treatment in 1997 and the DAV management had to reimburse the fees charged from the families of the fire victims in 2002."
He said the state government had paid their share of 45% in 2009 after the high court order while the DAV management went defiant and refused to pay the compensation amount that constituted 55% (Rs 47 crore), and they approached the Supreme Court.
Dr Arun Kumar, a Dabwali-based doctor, whose then one-year-old son suffered 80% burns, said, "Had the court not intervened, the fire victims would never have got justice. We welcome the verdict."
Shamsher Singh, whose daughter lost both legs, said, "It's a lesson for the DAV management which first promised to bear expenses of the orphan children but later went defiant. The court has set an example by acting tough on them."
Suchha Singh Bhullar, who lost his wife and daughter, said, "Though late, the government had done its duty by providing compensation on the court orders, but the DAV management had gone passive even after collecting a large sum of money through donation in the name of the tragedy."
RS Sharma, general secretary, DAV management committee, said, "I have not received the written copy of the judgment; we were trying to say before the Supreme Court that the responsibility shouldn't be fixed on us as we were also the sufferers having lost our regional director, teachers and school students."
He said the management had tried to plead their case on the basis that the responsibility should be fixed on the tent owner on whose fault the fire broke out and the tragedy of such a scale occurred.
He said they would abide by the verdict of the apex court.
Dec 23, 1995 - Fire occurs at marriage palace at Dabwali, where a school annual function was on, killing more than 400
1996 -- Dabwali Fire Victims Association files petition in high court, seeking compensation
1997 -- High court passes an interim order to government to provide free treatment to victims
2002 -- High court orders reimbursing school fees charged by DAV management from victims
2009 -- High court directs the state government (45%) and DAV management (55%), Rs 47 crore, to pay compensation to victims
March 2010 -- DAV management approaches Supreme Court for seeking relief in compensation amount